Romas paid to go back to Romania
|What is affected||
|Type of violation||
|Date||01 June 2009|
|Region||E [ Europe ]|
Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)
Prejudice and evictions widespread in Europe not just France, activists warn|
Civil rights groups accuse governments across Europe of adopting anti-Roma to gain electoral successes
- Mark Tran
Civil rights campaigners have accused governments across Europe – not just France – of adopting explicitly anti-immigrant and anti-Roma policies to win popular support and gain electoral success.
The criticisms follows the rift between Nicolas Sarzkozy and fellow EU leaders over his determination to demolish Roma camps and deport their residents. At an EU summit in Brussels Sarkozy was isolated, except for the backing of the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
The French leader claimed he had the support of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, but German officials denied his assertion that Berlin planned to clear camps.
Amid accusations that France is breaking EU law, campaigners said that anti-Roma sentiment predated the economic crisis but had escalated in the past two years.
"It has been more tempting in the economic crisis for politicians to scapegoat people," said Robert Kushen, the executive director of the European Roma Rights centre in Budapest, "but if you take a deeper look extremist figures have been targeting Roma before 2008."
Although it is France in the headlines, Kushen points to a surge in anti-Roma attacks in eastern Europe. Acts of violence in Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic have included firebombing, shooting, stabbing and beating. Eight people have died and dozens have serious injuries. Many attacks have targeted families and children.
"These countries have seen a strengthening of extremist and openly racist groups, which spread hate speech and organise anti-Romani marches through the very same villages where people are being attacked or killed," said the ERRC.
Meanwhile France, which has expelled more than 8,000 Roma this year, is not alone in turning back Roma. In July Denmark summarily sent 23 Roma back to Romania, Sweden expelled 50 and Germany paid more than 100 Roma to return to Romania in June 2009. Amid public outcries about public security, Finland has also threatened expulsions.
Italy has had a tough line for a decade so it was no surprise this week when Berlusconi described France`s expulsions as perfectly legal. For the past decade Roma and Sinti communities in Italy have been regularly subjected to forced evictions and the pace has quickened since 2007.
Evictions are often carried out at short notice and without prior consultation. Residents are not informed about alternatives to eviction and are not offered adequate accommodation. The majority are forced to find shelter in unauthorised areas where they may be evicted once again.
Berlusconi built on resentment against Roma in his 2008 election campaign. Only 12 days after he formed his government the European commission warned ministers not to take "extreme measures" against Roma.
Berlusconi`s government proposed fingerprinting Roma and their children but partially backed down after heavy criticism, saying the policy would at first apply to those living in Italy who could not provide identification, before being extended to all residents with identity cards.
Only Spain emerges with any credit in its treatment of Roma.
"Spain hasn`t made much of an issue politically of the Roma and has been on the whole fairly tolerant," said John Dalhuisen, an Amnesty International expert on discrimination in Europe. "There has been no evictions and no destruction of camps."
(Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/17/prejudice-widespread-europe, 17 September 2010)